Hunter vs. Farmer Hypothesis



The hunter vs. farmer hypothesis is a hypothesis proposed by American author and former psychotherapist, Thom Hartmann, about the origins of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), suggesting that the condition may be an adaptive behavior. Hartmann proposes that the high frequency of ADHD in contemporary settings represents otherwise normal behavioral strategies that become maladaptive in such evolutionarily novel environments as the formal school classroom. Genetic variants conferring susceptibility to ADHD are very frequent—implying that the trait had provided selective advantage in the past.

Hartmann notes that most or all humans were nomadic hunter gatherers for hundreds of thousands of years, but that this standard gradually changed as agriculture developed in most societies, and more people worldwide became farmers. Over many years, most humans adapted to farming cultures, but Hartmann speculates that people with ADHD retained some of the older hunter characteristics. The theory also explains the distractibility factor in ADHD individuals and their short attention span, along with various other characteristics, such as apathy towards social norms, poor planning and organizing ability, distorted sense of time, impatience, and impulsiveness.

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